Read Dune Messiah Online

Authors: Frank Herbert

Tags: #Dune (Imaginary place), #Fantasy, #General, #Science Fiction, #Fiction

Dune Messiah (33 page)

BOOK: Dune Messiah
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Slowly, marshaling his powers, shedding bits of inhibition, he sank into mentat awareness. He forced it—not the best way—but somehow necessary. Ghost shadows moved within him in place of people. He was a trans-shipping station for every datum he had ever encountered. His being was inhabited by creatures of possibility. They passed in review to be compared, judged.
Perspiration broke out on his forehead.
Thoughts with fuzzy edges feathered away into darkness—unknown. Infinite systems! A mentat could not function without realizing he worked in infinite systems. Fixed knowledge could not surround the infinite.
Everywhere
could not be brought into finite perspective. Instead, he must
become
the infinite—momentarily.
In one gestalten spasm, he had it, seeing Bijaz seated before him blazing from some inner fire.
Bijaz!
The dwarf had done something to him!
Hayt felt himself teetering on the lip of a deadly pit. He projected the mentat computation line forward, seeing what could develop out of his own actions.
“A compulsion!” he gasped. “I’ve been rigged with a compulsion!”
A blue-robed courier, passing as Hayt spoke, hesitated. “Did you say something, sirra?”
Not looking at him, the ghola nodded. “I said everything.”
There was a man so wise,
He jumped into
A sandy place
And burnt out both his eyes!
And when he knew his eyes were gone,
He offered no complaint.
He summoned up a vision
And made himself a saint.
 
—CHILDREN’S VERSE FROM HISTORY OF MUAD’DIB
 
 
Paul stood in darkness outside the sietch. Oracular vision told him it was night, that moonlight silhouetted the shrine atop Chin Rock high on his left. This was a memory-saturated place, his first sietch, where he and Chani …
I must not think of Chani,
he told himself.
The thinning cup of his vision told him of changes all around—a cluster of palms far down to the right, the black-silver line of a qanat carrying water through the dunes piled up by that morning’s storm.
Water flowing in the desert!
He recalled another kind of water flowing in a river of his birthworld, Caladan. He hadn’t realized then the treasure of such a flow, even the murky slithering in a qanat across a desert basin. Treasure.
With a delicate cough, an aide came up from behind.
Paul held out his hands for a magnabord with a single sheet of metallic paper on it. He moved as sluggishly as the qanat’s water. The vision flowed, but he found himself increasingly reluctant to move with it.
“Pardon, Sire,” the aide said. “The Semboule Treaty—your signature?”
“I can read it!” Paul snapped. He scrawled “Atreides Imper.” in the proper place, returned the board, thrusting it directly into the aide’s outstretched hand, aware of the fear this inspired.
The man fled.
Paul turned away.
Ugly, barren land!
He imagined it sun-soaked and monstrous with heat, a place of sandslides and the drowned darkness of dust pools, blowdevils unreeling tiny dunes across the rocks, their narrow bellies full of ochre crystals. But it was a rich land, too: big, exploding out of narrow places with vistas of storm-trodden emptiness, rampart cliffs and tumbledown ridges.
All it required was water … and love.
Life changed those irascible wastes into shapes of grace and movement, he thought. That was the message of the desert. Contrast stunned him with realization. He wanted to turn to the aides massed in the sietch entrance, shout at them: If you need something to worship, then worship life—all life, every last crawling bit of it! We’re all in this beauty together!
They wouldn’t understand. In the desert, they were endlessly desert. Growing things performed no green ballet for them.
He clenched his fists at his sides, trying to halt the vision. He wanted to flee from his own mind. It was a beast come to devour him! Awareness lay in him, sodden, heavy with all the living it had sponged up, saturated with too many experiences.
Desperately, Paul squeezed his thoughts outward.
Stars!
Awareness turned over at the thought of all those stars above him—an infinite volume. A man must be half mad to imagine he could rule even a teardrop of that volume. He couldn’t begin to imagine the number of subjects his Imperium claimed.
Subjects? Worshippers and enemies, more likely. Did any among them see beyond rigid beliefs? Where was one man who’d escaped the narrow destiny of his prejudices? Not even an Emperor escaped. He’d lived a take-everything life, tried to create a universe in his own image. But the exultant universe was breaking across him at last with its silent waves.
I spit on Dune!
he thought.
I give it my moisture!
This myth he’d made out of intricate movements and imagination, out of moonlight and love, out of prayers older than Adam, and gray cliffs and crimson shadows, laments and rivers of martyrs—what had it come to at last? When the waves receded, the shores of Time would spread out there clean, empty, shining with infinite grains of memory and little else. Was this the golden genesis of man?
Sand scuffed against rocks told him that the ghola had joined him.
“You’ve been avoiding me today, Duncan,” Paul said.
“It’s dangerous for you to call me that,” the ghola said.
“I know.”
“I … came to warn you, m’Lord.”
“I know.”
The story of the compulsion Bijaz had put on him poured from the ghola then.
“Do you know the nature of the compulsion?” Paul asked.
“Violence.”
Paul felt himself arriving at a place which had claimed him from the beginning. He stood suspended. The Jihad had seized him, fixed him onto a glidepath from which the terrible gravity of the Future would never release him.
“There’ll be no violence from Duncan,” Paul whispered.
“But, Sire …”
“Tell me what you see around us,” Paul said.
“M’Lord?”
“The desert—how is it tonight?”
“Don’t you
see
it?”
“I have no eyes, Duncan.”
“But …”
“I’ve only my vision,” Paul said, “and wish I didn’t have it. I’m dying of prescience, did you know that, Duncan?”
“Perhaps … what you fear won’t happen,” the ghola said.
“What? Deny my own oracle? How can I when I’ve seen it fulfilled thousands of times? People call it a power, a gift. It’s an affliction! It won’t let me leave my life where I found it!”
“M’Lord,” the ghola muttered, “I … it isn’t … young master, you don’t … I …” He fell silent.
Paul sensed the ghola’s confusion, said: “What’d you call me, Duncan?”
“What? What I … for a moment …”
“You called me ‘young master.’ ”
“I did, yes.”
“That’s what Duncan always called me.” Paul reached out, touched the ghola’s face. “Was that part of your Tleilaxu training?”
“No.”
Paul lowered his hand. “What, then?”
“It came from … me.”
“Do you serve two masters?”
“Perhaps.”
“Free yourself from the ghola, Duncan.”
“How?”
“You’re human. Do a human thing.”
“I’m a ghola!”
“But your flesh is human. Duncan’s in there.”

Something’s
in there.”
“I care not how you do it,” Paul said, “but you’ll do it.”
“You’ve foreknowledge?”
“Foreknowledge be damned!” Paul turned away. His vision hurtled forward now, gaps in it, but it wasn’t a thing to be stopped.
“M’Lord, if you’ve—”
“Quiet!” Paul held up a hand. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what, m’Lord?”
Paul shook his head. Duncan hadn’t heard it. Had he only imagined the sound? It’d been his tribal name called from the desert—far away and low: “Usul … Uuuussssuuuullll …”
“What is it, m’Lord?”
Paul shook his head. He felt watched. Something out there in the night shadows knew he was here. Something? No—some
one.
“It was mostly sweet,” he whispered, “and you were the sweetest of all.”
“What’d you say, m’Lord?”
“It’s the future,” Paul said.
That amorphous human universe out there had undergone a spurt of motion, dancing to the tune of his vision. It had struck a powerful note then. The ghost-echoes might endure.
“I don’t understand, m’Lord,” the ghola said.
“A Fremen dies when he’s too long from the desert,” Paul said. “They call it the ‘water sickness.’ Isn’t that odd?”
“That’s very odd.”
Paul strained at memories, tried to recall the sound of Chani breathing beside him in the night.
Where is there comfort?
he wondered. All he could remember was Chani at breakfast the day they’d left for the desert. She’d been restless, irritable.
“Why do you wear that old jacket?” she’d demanded, eyeing the black uniform coat with its red hawk crest beneath his Fremen robes. “You’re an Emperor!”
“Even an Emperor has his favorite clothing,” he’d said.
For no reason he could explain, this had brought real tears to Chani’s eyes—the second time in her life when Fremen inhibitions had been shattered.
Now, in the darkness, Paul rubbed his own cheeks, felt moisture there.
Who gives moisture to the dead?
he wondered. It was his own face, yet not his. The wind chilled the wet skin. A frail dream formed, broke. What was this swelling in his breast? Was it something he’d eaten? How bitter and plaintive was this other self, giving moisture to the dead. The wind bristled with sand. The skin, dry now, was his own. But whose was the quivering which remained?
They heard the wailing then, far away in the sietch depths. It grew louder … louder …
The ghola whirled at a sudden glare of light, someone flinging wide the entrance seals. In the light, he saw a man with a raffish grin—no! Not a grin, but a grimace of grief! It was a Fedaykin lieutenant named Tandis. Behind him came a press of many people, all fallen silent now that they saw Muad’dib.
“Chani …” Tandis said.
“Is dead,” Paul whispered. “I heard her call.”
He turned toward the sietch. He knew this place. It was a place where he could not hide. His onrushing vision illuminated the entire Fremen mob. He
saw
Tandis, felt the Fedaykin’s grief, the fear and anger.
“She is gone,” Paul said.
The ghola heard the words out of a blazing corona. They burned his chest, his backbone, the sockets of his metal eyes. He felt his right hand move toward the knife at his belt. His own thinking became strange, disjointed. He was a puppet held fast by strings reaching down from that awful corona. He moved to another’s commands, to another’s desires. The strings jerked his arms, his legs, his jaw. Sounds came squeezing out of his mouth, a terrifying repetitive noise—
“Hraak! Hraak! Hraak!”
The knife came up to strike. In that instant, he grabbed his own voice, shaped rasping words: “Run! Young master, run!”
“We will not run,” Paul said. “We’ll move with dignity. We’ll do what must be done.”
The ghola’s muscles locked. He shuddered, swayed.
“… what must be done!”
The words rolled in his mind like a great fish surfacing.
“… what must be done!”
Ahhh, that had sounded like the old Duke, Paul’s grandfather. The young master had some of the old man in him.
“… what must be done!”
The words began to unfold in the ghola’s consciousness. A sensation of living two lives simultaneously spread out through his awareness: Hayt / Idaho / Hayt / Idaho … He became a motionless chain of relative existence, singular, alone. Old memories flooded his mind. He marked them, adjusted them to new understandings, made a beginning at the integration of a new awareness. A new
persona
achieved a temporary form of internal tyranny. The masculating synthesis remained charged with potential disorder, but events pressed him to the temporary adjustment. The young master needed him.
It was done then. He knew himself as Duncan Idaho, remembering everything of Hayt as though it had been stored secretly in him and ignited by a flaming catalyst. The corona dissolved. He shed the Tleilaxu compulsions.
“Stay close to me, Duncan,” Paul said. “I’ll need to depend on you for many things.” And, as Idaho continued to stand entranced: “Duncan!”
BOOK: Dune Messiah
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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